It is generally accepted that the Family Procellariidae can be split into four broad groupings; the fulmars (Fulmarus), the gadfly-petrels (Pterodroma), the prions (Pachyptila) and the shearwaters (Puffinus).
The disease is caused by a mysterious class of proteins called prions that destroy nervous system tissue in the brain, causing loss of motor control and eventually death.
The causative prions are resistant to steam sterilization, dry heat, ethylene oxide gas, and chemical disinfection with either formaldehyde or glutaraldehyde, as normally used in the health care environment.
Twisted forms of brain proteins called prions spread the disease, making normal proteins misfold.
The prions currently comprise six rather similar looking species of Pachyptila prion together with the Blue Petrel.
The means of transmission is of particular concern because the protein nature of prions makes them extremely resistant to conventional means of disinfection and sterilization.
In addition to the wandering, we also were entranced by royal and shy albatrosses, as well as Cape and giant petrels, fairy prions and fluttering shearwaters.
For many years after their discovery as the agents of some rare neurodegenerative diseases in mammals, such as scrapie in sheep and human Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease and kuru, prions have remained a truly esoteric research topic.